NASHVILLE — He sings "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, but Dan Tyminski was all smiles Tuesday after being nominated for a pair of Country Music Association awards.
"As musicians and singers, we spend our whole lives trying to perfect our craft and get that across to other people," Tyminski said at Nashville's Adelphia Coliseum, site of the announcements. "Nominations validate our efforts. They put big smiles on our faces."
Most nominees were elsewhere when Brooks & Dunn and Jo Dee Messina read their names during the news conference. Keith Urban, in his native Australia to sing at the Goodwill Games, had to be roused from a deep sleep at 1 a.m. to hear news of his Horizon Award nomination. Lee Ann Womack was changing planes in Detroit. Phil Vassar was on a tour bus headed for New York. Toby Keith was promoting his new album at a record store in Chicago.
Country Music Hall of Fame member George Jones, nominated for his participation on Brad Paisley's "Too Country," got the good news straight from Paisley, who drove to Jones' house to tell him.
"He was mowing his lawn and stopped to hear the news," Paisley said. "He said to me, 'Son, that's great! I just bought four brand new suits — I can wear one to the show.' "
Awards-show veterans Brooks & Dunn said they feel industry recognition never becomes old hat. Montgomery Gentry edged them out in the Vocal Duo of the Year category in 2000, ending an unprecedented eight-year CMA victory streak. The loss was a wakeup call.
"We were in a lull, for a combination of reasons," Ronnie Dunn said. "We were at a point to where we either had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or call it a day. We didn't feel we were ready to call it a day. So, [the loss] was the last little bell that rang before we took off running."
The duo refocused and came back strong this year with a successful album, Steers & Stripes, hit singles and an extravagant headlining tour, the Neon Circus & Wild West Show.
Their peers noticed. Brooks & Dunn received four nominations including Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year and Single of the Year. They vie again with Montgomery Gentry for Vocal Duo of the Year.
Tyminski, a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station, attended the press conference with the group's manager, Denise Stiff. Tyminski walked away with nods for Single of the Year and Album of the Year for his work on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. As one of the Soggy Bottom Boys, he supplies the vocals when George Clooney sings "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" in the movie.
"I came off the road yesterday and was getting ready to go back [home] to Virginia," Tyminski said. "Denise said, 'We haven't heard one way or the other about the nominations. Don't get your hopes up, but it'll be fun to go.' That's the mindset I took, and I ended up very pleased."
The "O Brother" album drew two more nominations. "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby," by Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch, and "I'll Fly Away," by Krauss and Welch, compete against each other for Vocal Event of the Year.
Tyminski also was happy that fellow acoustic act Nickel Creek made the final ballot for Horizon Award and Vocal Group of the Year. "The most exciting part of the day for me was hearing their nominations," he said. "I could spend the rest of the day trying to explain the talent Nickel Creek holds within their band. To see them recognized is fantastic."
CMA Executive Director Ed Benson said he believes the nominations for Nickel Creek and "O Brother" are positive signs for country music.
"The recognition is indicative that the cyclical trend in American music tastes is starting to swing back toward the more genuine, real rootsy, traditional music," Benson said. "It never goes away, and it has periods where it gets more attention. Right now it's definitely on the uptick. That's always a good sign for our industry, because in the past that has tended to be one of the indicators of resurgent growth in our format."
Jamie O'Neal also attended the ceremony, where she learned she had a pair of nominations: Horizon Award and Music Video of the Year, for her breakthrough hit "There Is No Arizona."
"When I went to the [CMA awards] show last year, nobody knew who I was," O'Neal said. "I feel this year I've got a reason to be there."
The Horizon Award was introduced in 1981 to recognize newcomers whose careers have shown great growth. Past winners include the Judds, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks and Dixie Chicks, among others. O'Neal hopes to follow in their footsteps.
"It really lets you know that you're on your way," the singer said. "A lot of the Horizon winners and nominees I've watched in the past have really gone on to be major talents. They were able to keep doing what they love to do — making albums, headlining their own tours. That's what I hope to do myself. I'm just having a good time and trying to enjoy every minute. I'm holding the reins and want to keep going."
CBS will telecast the 35th CMA Awards on November 7 at 8 p.m. ET from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. For the 10th year, Vince Gill will host.